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california native plants are poppies for wildflowers and native plant ecosystem

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Rocky Slopes for Habitat

First, let's look at what kinds of wildlife are attracted to rocky places...those wonderful nooks and crannys...heated surfaces for a winter siesta...burrows for homes and nurseries.

Skinks come to mind first. Scampering glimmers of light. Then there are toads, and chipmonks, and burrowing owls and hedgehogs and snakes and insects galore, including butterflies and moths. And where there are insects and small mammals, there will be a variety of birds.

My favorite book about landscaping in rocky places is "Stonescaping -- a Guide to Using Stone in Your Garden" by Jan Kowalczewski Whitner (Garden Way Publishing). I've spent hours dreaming and planning with her book on my lap. So we'll take a look at some of the ideas and implementations that she presents. And we'll look at some ideas shared by Rubin Loredo, the manager of a local nursery here in Los Angeles -- the Marina Del Rey Garden Center.

roses, gardening, rose garden, pool, swimming pool
The sparkling aqua of the urban pool is softened and given a dose of lush flair with a bank of low-growing, compact, intensively blooming landscape roses. Flower Carpet by Tesselaar
Swimming pools are increasingly being converted into ornamental ponds that host water plants and freshwater fish (and Joy tells you how). The size of this "pond" makes it possible to not only include large fish and frogs in your plan, but a variety of pots and nook gardens around the edge of the water. Some local governments actually encourage this conversion because it saves strain on their local water supply.

Plants for Sunny, Rocky Slopes in the MidAtlantic region

The North Carolina Wild Flower Preservation Society has an excellent book called "North Carolina Native Plant Propagation Handbook". You might check with your state Native Plant see what is available for your state. Most states now have active groups researching and sharing what they learn.

Native Plant Organizations

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Wild Ones Handbook: Natural Landscaping Movement

Many of the most beautiful native plants grow easily in full sun, flower for long periods, and do not require constant maintenance as do more delicate shade plants.

As with any native plant gardening, it is very important that you choose ONLY plants native to your location. A beautiful wildflower in one location is an invasive weed in another! With that in mind, here is a starting list to consider for a rocky, well drained, sloping site.

These are easily propogated, generally disease free, and add texture and color to a sunny garden area:

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) One of the easiest and most rewarding of all wildflowers to cultivate.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) Very drought resistant and provides brilliant orange and yellow color.

Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron) is a common fern found in woods and fields in shade and sun alike. Drought-resistant and good evergreen plant for rock or shade gardens.

Wild Sunflowers (Helianthus tomentosus) Drought resistant and sun loving. Different species include the Jerusalem Artichode (H. tuberosus) Very tall and might require staking. Gold finches will enjoy this small version of the commercial sunflower seed.

Coral Honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens) This is evergreen and bears all the attributes of the Yellow Jessamine, but has clusters of thin tubular red flowers. It does not become a pest as does the invasive introduced Japanese Honeysuckle. Several forms are available from the nursery trade.

Horsemint (Monarda punctata) is a native mint that is easy to grow for late fall blooms. Needs a lot of sunshine, and mulch during winter months.

Penstemon - several species and varieties that vary from tall to slow growing varieties. Hummingbirds love these flowers.

Plants for Sunny or Shaded Slopes

Bluet (Houstonia purpurea) Great for sunny rock garden or shady woodland garden.

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) is a long lasting native plant. If winters are not too severe and it has ample sunlight, this little golden daisy-like flower shows off for almost ten months. Excellent for rock garden or semi-sunny spot in woodland garden, and even as a pot plant.

Plants for Sunny Southwestern Habitats

Las Pilitas--California Native Plants, Ecological Restoration, Biological Services, Native Landscapes.

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) This evergreen western native ranges in size from ground covers to full sized shrubs to small trees. Most have smooth red to purple bark. Flowers are waxy and bell shaped. Some are followed by fruit -- those will be best for wildlife. Does best in sun.

Wild Lilac (Ceanothus) One of the more spectacular natives in bloom. Colors rante grom white to blue to deep violet blue. Butterflies and hummingbirds love the blossoms. Most bloom in March or April and the blossom resembles a tight clustered Lilac flower. They do NOT LIKE WATER, so plant beyond the sprinklers' reach and hand water the first season. Height can range from ground cover to a small tree.

Matilija Poppy (Romneya Coulteri) This "poppy" is native to the southern part of California. It produces gorgeous nine inch wide white crepe-like flowers with a large golden center. The plant itself reaches about 8 feet in height. Tolerance of various soil types and watering schedules makes it a flexible choice.

California Fuchsia (Zauschneria californica) This native is great for hillsides and banks. Dense grey foliage is covered with bright red-orange or white tubular shaped flowers summer through fall. It forms a thick mat about 12 inches tall that should be sheared every fall to keep the growth thick. Plant in full sun. Loses its leaves during very cold winters. Flowers attract birds. It can become invasive if overwatered.

Coffeeberry (Phamnus californica) A drought tolerant evergreen shrub covered with large berries which turn red, and then black when ripe. Native to most parts of the western US. Near the coast it tends to be lower and spreading while in the woodland the varieties are taller and rangy. It has shiny dark green leaves. Plant in full sun but is tolerant of shade. Not particular as to soil. Excellent companion planting for established oaks. So...we've covered lots of plants for food, cover and landscaping... rocks that provide homes and chaise lounges for the cold blooded types, and nectar and fruit for the birds.

Have fun with your springtime wishes and habitat dreams!

For more articles about CONSERVATION & GARDENING

When is a plant a weed?
Saving Topsoil
Controlling Slugs and Snails
California Heritage Gardens
Walk Gently with the Earth
Weather and Temperature are Linked to Landscaping